Are you graduating this spring? Are you starting a new job or graduate school or unsure about what comes next? If you are graduating from college or career school (technical and vocational school) this spring, congratulations! It is a big accomplishment.
Preparing for life after college deserves equal attention as college readiness. While some graduating seniors have already received their graduate school acceptance letters or new job offers, many are weighing their options and trying to figure out their next steps. In this changing economic landscape, with job uncertainty and income insecurity, what are some strategies you can use to balance your personal financial life?
Understand your education debt
- You typically have six months after you graduate to start repaying your loans or to defer payments. If you have federal loans, private loans or a combination of both, pay attention to the repayment guidelines since repayment options are different for the types of loans. Pay close attention to terms such as delinquency, default, and deferment. If you encounter problems paying the monthly amount, talk with your lender or loan servicer. Explore repayment options to see if you qualify for Income-Based or Pay As You Earn repayment plans and other options. Similar rules apply to other related-debt (e.g. credit card, personal loan).
- If you are starting a new job, take advantage of your employer's retirement plans. It is not too early to start saving for your future. Retirement accounts such as a 401(k) offer a way for employees to save and invest in their futures, and employers contribute to some plans. Learn about the plans your employer offers and talk with your human resource (HR) department to determine what will work well for you.
Do not spend more than you earn
- Your income provides you with a picture of what you can afford (e.g. housing, transportation). If your base salary is less than you were anticipating, think about ways to make adjustments and reduce spending. Track your spending using a method that works well for you and set a spending plan. Even though most people are interested in ways to reduce spending, they often encounter barriers to turning their goals into saving targets. Therefore, determining what you have coming in (income from all sources) and what is going out (expenses) are the first steps to creating a workable budget and organizing your financial life
Do not give up
- Life after college is unpredictable and it is hard to forecast all the changes you will encounter throughout your professional life. However, your investment in your education and training took a lot of dedication and commitment. So, even during times of economic uncertainty (e.g. employment, continuing education), you can still be empowered in your financial decision-making.
Your overall financial goals regardless of your position after school should be to find ways to reduce spending. So, plan wisely, use community resources, volunteer, and "don't get disappointed because you're not 'there' yet".